Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

THE   ARTISTIC    LIFE                    283

and Wu Taotzfi solved it by his mastery of the brush, dis-
tinguished by its boldness and freedom. Instead of concealing
the line, the artist glorified it. (We shall see the same principle
in Chinese architecture.) Thus in place of the dead and servile
lines of Ku K'aichih (346-407) which were more or less even
as if drav/n by a steel pen, Wu started the so-called "orchid-
petal line/' curling and constantly changing in width, due to
the natural rhythm of a stroke laid with the sensitive brush.
In fact, it was from Wu Taotzu's strokes that his pupil Chang
Hsu created the extremely swift style of entwining ropes in
calligraphy. Wang Wei (Mochieh, 699-759) further developed
and modified the stroke in painting, sometimes abolishing the
traditional method of "tracing outlines," and consequently is
generally credited with having founded the "southern school."
Its far-reaching consequences we shall soon see.

The second problem is: How shall the artist's personality be
projected into the work and make it worthy of the name of an
art, transcending mere efforts at verisimilitude, yet without
sacrificing truth, harmony or reality? This revolt against mere
physical accuracy is also back of all the new tendencies in
modern art, which may be described as searching for an
escape from the material reality and for methods of indicating
the artist's own ego in the work. The same revolt came in the
history of Chinese art in the eighth century with the new
school. People felt tired or dissatisfied with photographic
reproductions of the material reality.

Here was the same old problem: How could the artist
invest the objects with his own emotions or reactions without
producing a grotesque caricature? The problem had already
been solved in Chinese poetry. The revolt was a revolt
against mere accuracy and minute craftsmanship. The con-
trast between the new and the old school is interestingly shown
in the story of two paintings of Szechuen landscapes on palace
walls, done by Li Ssfihsiin (651-716) and Wu Taotzu during the
reign of T'ang Minghuang. It is said that Li, the master of the
"northern school," did his landscape in about a month, with
all its tracery work and golden colours, while Wu did his grand
landscape of the entire Chingling river in a day's time in
splashes of ink, and the Emperor said, "Li Ssuhstin did it in